Sunday, June 08, 2014

London: Day #2, Monday

Sarah, atop the injurious see-saw

June: the most monstrous yawn ever

Starbucks mocha-sump'n for "Louse"

Atop the London Eye.

Ah yes, the saga of Louise's severely mashed foot. We had gone to bed, crossing our fingers that it would be magically better in the morning. It wasn't. It looked like a potato with toes. Action was required. We googled and dialed.1 Sarah took Louise to the clinic/E.R./whatever-they-call-it. X-rays were done, and as mentioned, the foot was diagnosed as banged but not broken. They were out in no time at all. (We're accustomed to long hours in U.S. waiting rooms.) Free of charge. Vacation on. (Near) full speed ahead.

The weather had taken a decidedly "British" turn, the previous day's clear skies replaced by iron gray clouds and a steady drizzle.2 And everyone was still a  bit jet-groggy. We hopped on the bus and found our way to the Millenium Bridge, (a highlight because it's featured in one of the later Harry Potter movies) took a stroll across the Thames, wandered into St. Paul's, caffeined-up at an adjacent Starbucks (how very exotic),3 wandered back across the Thames, took brief refuge from the rain in the Tate Modern, then headed out to find a late lunch. I'd identified a promising fish and chips place a short bus ride away (fish and chips was on our check list), but the day was a bank holiday, and the place was closed. We wandered, semi-lost, finally finding a bustling pub near Picadilly station that did indeed have fish and chips (and ale). Bellies full, we trekked to the day's essential destination, the London Eye.

The London Eye — the northern hemisphere's largest ferris wheel, a dominant feature on the city's landscape — is a marvelous creation. The ladies had booked tickets in advance. I had thought I wouldn't ride. (I'm not absolutely wild about heights.) But when I saw its slow gentle turn, I changed my mind, bought a last minute ticket and hopped on with Sarah and the gals. It took the better part of half-an-hour to make the loop. And it was lovely. And the view was spectacular.

Home again. Sleep.

1 I'll mention now that we were traveling without operational cell phones.a I journeyed out to find a pay phone and call the NHSb hot line. I apparently headed in the wrong direction, walking many blocks through the rain into central Brixton, near the tube stop, where I finally found a row of pay phones. I chose the least repulsive. (I say the least repulsive. It was still phenomenally gross. It seemed like someone had peed on every square inch of the booth, include the actual phone handset. (I washed my ears when I got back to the house.)) I made the call, talked to a very polite man, who asked to speak to "the patient" directly, which I explained was impossible, and when I asked about going to the clinic/E.R./whatever-they-call-it, he asked for my postal code so he could tell me where to go, but I didn't know our postal code, and I after polite thank yous and goodbyes, I hung up with no more information than I'd begun with. I headed back through the rain to the house, getting lost for a while along the way. So Sarah gave it a try, armed with the postal code, heading out in what turned out to be the right direction, finding a nice clean phone booth a block away, made the call, and found out where to go/what to do. And then I journeyed back to her pristine phone booth to call a cab. The phone repeatedly rejected my strange British coins. A kind lady offered her cell phone, but our attempts to dial a cab — perhaps flubbing the exotic phone number formats — resulted in me  repeatedly mis-dialing some poor but patient gent. We asked at the grocery if they had a phone. They couldn't help. But then, magically, we found a dedicated "taxi phone" at the front of the store. Cab (finally) summoned.
a There were remedies that could have been taken, but they were hideously expensive. Sarah — again, the queen of research — figured out that, at Heathrow, we could rent a mobile wi-fi hotspot, which we toted around with us during our treks, at least giving our phones internet access for the duration. 
b National Health Service.
2 I actually hoped it would rain some. The year I'd spent there in my youth was their rainiest year in fifty years, and England, in my memory, was a gray/grey damp place. I, perhaps pettily, hoped my Anglophilic ladies would at least get a representative dose of English meteorological reality. Not that a little rain would stop us.

3 Starbucks inadvertently labeled Louise's beverage "Louse."